Morgan Stanley Aims to Make Its Advisors More Visible On the Web

Author: Michael Thrasher | Dec 13, 2018 | WealthManagement.com

Morgan Stanley Wealth Management has partnered with Yext in hopes of boosting the visibility of its financial advisors on the Internet and making communications between them and potential clients easier.

Erik Jepson, the wealth manager's head of Digital Marketing, said the partnership announced on Tuesday would have an immediate effect on more than 15,000 websites belonging to the firm's financial advisors.

Among other services, Yext, a publicly-traded technology company headquartered in New York City, helps companies organize the website data behind the scenes that populates the information visitors see. Thoughtfully structuring that data is critical for businesses with any intent on interacting with customers online, said Howard Lerman, the founder and CEO Yext.

Search engine user habits are changing and websites need to adapt with them, Lerman said. Searches typed into Google have grown 50 percent longer in recent years and devices that use voice search are reshaping the phrases searchers use and answers they expect. As a result, search engines, such as Google or Microsoft's Bing, are favoring websites that provide what it determines are the most relevant, helpful answers to questions. Those answers then appear in text at the top of search results and are recited aloud by other devices.

Before Yext, Morgan Stanley's advisor websites lacked that data structure and had a remote chance of appearing in front of searchers, Jepson said.

The partnership addresses other issues on the wealth manager's to-do list as well.

Communications and appointments made through an advisor's website will automatically flow into the Saleforce customer relationship management system the firm is rolling out to its advisors. Before the partnership with Yext, that process was largely manually. Each advisor will also have their own Yext account they can use to make changes and update their website information. In turn, those changes are automatically relayed to the compliance department and, once approved, published on the advisor's website. 

In addition to those enhancements, Jepson said Morgan Stanley is currently exploring other opportunities to leverage its new partners services. Yext has a directory of applications that its data framework services integrate with, including some that Morgan Stanley is considering to improv media ad buying and event management.

Data collected from all of the apps plugged into Yext and Morgan Stanley will also deliver valuable set of analytics the firm hopes it can leverage, Jepson said.

The partnership will certainly help investors discover Morgan Stanley advisors, said Doug Fritz, the CEO and founder of F2 Strategy, a technology and marketing consulting firm to the wealth management industry. Prior to founding F2 Strategy, Fritz was the CTO for First Republic Private Wealth Management.

But Fritz also said the technology would not lead directly to huge inflows of new money for advisors. After a website drives a potential client to an advisor, it's still up to the advisor to convince them to become a client.

Liz Fritz